Granger Reinforces Thomas

Situation overview 20 September 1863 1:00pm: General William S. Rosecrans, Alexander McCook, Thomas Crittenden, Phil Sheridan and virtually all staff and line officers on the right wing of the Army of the Cumberland had fled the field of battle. Confederate soldiers were running into increasing resistance from the Union Army as tthey approached Snodgrass Hill from the south. General John B. Hood has been taken from the field of battle with his leg shattered.

Sound. A soldier learns to "read" sound like a musician reads music. From the constant popping of small arms fire to the concentrated noise of two skirmish lines meeting sound tells a soldier what he can't see. Gordon Granger did not like what he heard at 11:00am that unusually cool Sunday morning in September, 1863. He jumped off a hayrick he had climbed for a better view and organized his men into a column heading south. Attacks by Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry could not distract Granger from his mission, although Granger did not know what his mission was. But from the sounds he had heard he knew someone was in trouble

On the other end of the battlefield General James Longstreet's Left Wing was slowing as it moved north, west of the LaFayette Road. Capturing more and more of the ground the Yankees had occupied earlier they pivoted as if on a hub to the north. Wilder's attack had done little to halt the Confederate juggernaut; the injury to General John B. Hood was more impactful.

Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw [CS] was only slightly delayed by the serious injury to his commanding officer. A bigger delay came when Bushrod Johnson felt the command should be his and with the Confederates under fire they compared the dates when each became a Brig. It was indeed Kershaw who was in charge, and his South Carolinians were giving the boys in blue a difficult time.

Wounded soldiers searched for water; healthy soldiers searched for high ground or a road heading west. Atop Snodgrass Hill Major General George Thomas and Brigadier General John Brannon had been receiving stragglers since noon, about a half hour after Longstreet's breakthrough. Slowly they built a line along the ridge of Snodgrass Hill, extending it west to Horseshoe Ridge as more men showed up. Small groups came at first, two or three men at a time. Then they came in fives or sixes. By 1:00pm it was not unusual to see fifty men in a group, but the Confederates were just behind them.

By 1:15 the battle now raged around the three hills near George Washington Snodgrass's cabin. The line built from the stragglers withstood the first Rebel attack, but on the far side of Horseshoe Ridge, where the line was the weakest, Bushrod Johnson [CS] was making headway. By 1:45 they had taken the military crest and were advancing towards the top of the ridge. If they were successful it would be a serious blow to Thomas's ability to hold his position and would come close to severing a major line of retreat, not that retreat was on Thomas's mind.

At that moment things changed dramatically. General Gordon Granger walked up to the beleagered Thomas who asked "Can you drive those men from the hill?," pointing to the men on the far side of the Horseshoe Ridge. In minutes Granger's men were engaging the Rebels at the top of ridge, driving them back below the military crest. Almost 100,000 rounds of ammunition was being passed out to the Yanks in the area of Snodgrass Hill.

Then a bit of luck for the Union forces. General James Longstreet, commander of the Left Wing stumbled upon the end of Thomas' line at Kelly Field. He failed to notice a half-mile gap between this line and the men on Snodgrass Hill. Had he realized the gap and exploited it, the entire Army of the Cumberland might have been destroyed.

James Garfield escorted General Rosecrans to Rossville, where his commanding officer continued back to Chattanooga. Garfield thought it would be best if he rode back to the battle. The trip to Rossville and back took more than three hours, with the future president reporting to Thomas shortly after 3:30 pm. The news he brought was not good. No men were coming, and the nearest ammunition was 12 miles away in Chattanooga.

Prelude (December, 1862 - September, 1863)
The Day Before (September 18, 1863)
First Contact
Early Fighting
The Conflict Widens
A Battleline is Drawn
A Bad Start
Rosecrans Moves North
Breakthrough at the Brotherton Cabin
Granger Reinforces Thomas


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